To recap, the university's and the Louisiana Division of Administration's excuse for not releasing the new appraisal was that it was conducted "in anticipation of litigation." Then the university also said it wasn't expecting to be sued over the botched land swap deal, the one where 36 acres of UL's Johnston Street horse farm would be exchanged for Davidson's 4 residential acres on Girard Park Drive to expand UL's campus.
In the latest head-scratching development in the land swap debacle, last week Authement's attorney, Steve Oats, told The Independent Weekly's legal counsel, Gary McGoffin, that the state may expropriate the Davidson property, a legal process also commonly referred to as eminent domain. The state claims if it can't negotiate a deal to buy Davidson's property, it may take the old homes and acreage ' private property that isn't even connected with the university campus. The courts would decide whether the state has a right to take the site, and Davidson (a past president and current member of the UL Board of Trustees) would have a right to a trial by jury to determine his compensation. That's the litigation they're anticipating.
This justification for keeping the record from the public appears to be a desperate measure in Authement's longstanding mission to acquire Davidson's property. In late 2003, Davidson's good friend, appraiser George Parker, was hired by Authement to value the land and homes, and Parker came up with a $3.25 million price tag.
That's what Davidson thought he'd get in the land swap, especially after the Board of Supervisors for the UL System approved the deal in mid-2005. Under intense criticism over the dubious $3.25 million valuations of both the horse farm and Davidson properties and numerous questions about the cozy group of principals involved, in December the board asked the state DOA to recommend a new, "independent" appraiser. In all likelihood Davidson's came back a couple of months ago from independent appraiser Lane Godshall at about half of Parker's appraisal (the horse farm has not yet been reappraised), but concerned residents won't know for sure until they get to see the document.
Presumably, neither Authement nor Davidson liked the outcome of the new valuation, leading to the decision to keep the record from the public. Authement announced in mid-July that the land swap deal was off ' but that he's still seeking money from the state's cash-strapped higher education board to buy the Davidson land outright.
Perhaps the most interesting twist in the saga's expropriation chapter is Davidson's experience with this kind of legal work. For years, he handled expropriation matters for local government, with George Parker (who is now retired) conducting the appraisals.
The new appraisal is unquestionably a public document, says Josh Zelden, an attorney for the Louisiana Press Association. The "anticipation of litigation" exemption applies to executive sessions held as part of public meetings ' not to this type of public record. And in cases where closed-door executive session meetings are called to discuss pending litigation, an attorney general's opinion holds that there must be a written demand and the parties disclosed. So for the state to even attempt to piggy-back on this exemption it must produce a written demand from its would-be opponent, Davidson (a demand it has not disclosed because it likely does not exist) and show that public discussion of the case would be detrimental to the state's position or strategy. Only then could the documents related to this exemption be legally kept from the public. "It is irrational and self-contradictory to suggest that disclosure of an appraisal showing a lower value for the property in question could hurt the public body attempting to acquire the property," says Zelden. "It can only help."
It's unclear what kind of argument the state will make to support expropriation of the property. To successfully take private property, government must prove there is a public or "necessary" purpose, like construction of an interstate. But some state and local governments have been trying to take private property for economic development purposes; the issue has become a political hot potato in post-Katrina Louisiana, and this fall voters will decide on a far-reaching constitutional amendment to restrict expropriation for economic development purposes.
Why the state would consider creating a legal mess over this already controversial piece of property is anyone's guess. And if its latest excuse has any legitimacy, although it still falls short of proving the appraisal should not be released to the public, is any private property on Girard Park Drive ' or anywhere in Lafayette, for that matter ' safe from the university's grasp?
Friday's Blogs from the Bog!
Sign "ninjas" cleaning up clutter; NYC doctor positive for Ebola; Ferguson grand jury decision nears; and more national and international news for Friday, October 24, 2014.
We can safely assume incumbent Chief K.P. Gibson isn’t too worried about this challenger.
Nationally, Republicans must gain six seats to win Senate control. The most competitive races, many in states where Obama lost in 2012, remain too close to call.
The Baton Rouge Republican has repeatedly battled a perception within his own party that he perhaps wasn't the best choice to carry the GOP banner.
Even if Jimmy Graham's production dips while the star tight end recovers from a shoulder injury, it looks like Drew Brees won't have much trouble finding other targets.
A former campaign manager for Senate candidate Rob Maness is striking at the Republican contender's tea party support, saying Maness only sought to appeal to conservative organizations because he needed money for his campaign.
Ninety-two percent of public school teachers were rated either effective or highly effective in a report the state issued marking the second year of a new statewide evaluation process.
School board members Mark Babineaux, Hunter Beasley and Tehmi Chassion can vote to fire Cooper — because we all know that’s exactly what they’ll do.
District 2 school board candidate Simon Mahan is hoping to unseat first-term incumbent and former Carencro Mayor Tommy Angelle in the Nov. 4 election.
District Attorney Mike Harson is showing his desperation by falsely attributing quotes to his opponent and blocking journalists from his social media.
The governor is traveling the country laying the groundwork for a possible 2016 presidential campaign, but his approval ratings at home hover well below 50 percent.
State District Judge Bob Downing extended the order and delayed a planned Wednesday hearing about a permanent injunction while negotiations continue between Attorney General Buddy Caldwell and the waste disposal site operator.
New Louisiana higher education commissioner Joseph Rallo will be paid more than his predecessor.
Elijah McGuire and Alonzo Harris each had four rushing touchdowns, and Louisiana-Lafayette rolled to 419 yards on the ground in a 55-40 victory over Arkansas State on Tuesday night.
Bill and Hillary Clinton are the validators-in-chief for Democrats struggling through a bleak campaign season in states where President Barack Obama is deeply unpopular.
President Barack Obama is turning to black radio listeners to plead for midterm votes, a targeted approach to drum up Democratic support at a time when many candidates don't want him around in person.
"I am extremely disheartened by the political machines that are attempting to hijack my efforts along with others that advocate for children."
Landrieu, who is fighting to keep her seat for a fourth term, said that Ebola is serious and precautions should be taken, but she accused Republicans of using the virus outbreak in West Africa to "create fear" here at home.
Law enforcement agencies are participating in a "Louisiana Heroin Summit," designed to address the recent rise in heroin use and drug-related deaths around the state.
State education officials are preparing to release performance scores for public schools and public school districts.
Saints coach Sean Payton is starting a new week by emphasizing, repeatedly, the many good things he noticed during New Orleans' latest loss.
We will be offering our recommendations on the constitutional amendments tomorrow.
The justices did not comment in leaving in place lower court rulings that dismissed the lawsuits against BP and other companies involved in the worst U.S. offshore oil spill.
White registration is down by 7,700 voters while black registration has shot up by 7,100 voters.